Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

India: Public Health, Gender, and Community Action


The following study seeks to explore how urban-middle class women in Delhi understand, value, and access sexual pleasure. Simultaneously, it looks to understand the relationship between ideas of agency, power, and pleasure. This project was prompted by the lack of colloquial conversation happening on these subjects both globally, and in the communities familiar to the researcher. Although sex and pleasure, in both theory and practice, are extremely prominent in the lives of people around the world, discussion remains stigmatized. With these constraints in mind, this study investigates how a certain population of women became knowledgeable, and are still learning about pleasure, in India’s capital city. Collection of data was done through nine qualitative, semi-structured interviews of working women between the ages of 25 and 46. This study seeks to contribute to existing literature by promoting safe spaces for normally illicit conversations between strangers, in hopes of increasing the visibility of women’s sexual pleasure. Findings reveal that understandings of sexual pleasure among respondents are shaped by cultural and social factors such as books and family attitudes. Sexual pleasure is valued highly by participants, as well as their partners, and privilege and privacy allow access to sexual pleasure.


Asian Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Health | Women's Studies


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